The Assessment’s Gap

By Austin Connell
May 2018 graduate
College of Education
Human Development and Family Studies     

picture of Austin Connell One of the main components of my internship with Dr. Ellis this semester was to go to each department within Student Services and assess the impact it is having on students. Is that department helping with retention at the university? Is that department aiding students in their quest for their degree? Is that department making a difference? And most importantly, where are the gaps that we need to fill?

As a student who has worked in Residential Life for 4 years, created and held multiple internships at 2 different universities, and devoted my entire college career to aiding students in any way possible, I thought I had a fair representation of what it meant to be in the Student Affairs profession. Wow, was I wrong. Every department within Student Services is so vastly different, yet connected through a common goal, “to help every member of our learning community succeed”.[1]

One thing that became clear throughout this internship is that we can do all of the assessments we want, but if we never look for gaps then we won’t improve our impact. Assessments can be our best friend, but also our worst enemy. People can look at assessments and see the things they are doing right and then go, “Oh, we are doing so well, we do not need to change.” Wrong. This is what makes assessments our worst enemy. While they highlight what we are doing well, they also reveal what we are not doing so well, and these deficiencies are hidden underneath the positives. We need to stop looking at just the positives and also look at what we are not doing so well– a.k.a. the gaps.

People would be delusional to think that they do not have gaps in their departments or their systems. Those gaps exist and it is our job to find them; that way we can create a department, a service, and a division that better provides for our students. While meeting with our departments, I was able to see where we have gaps and where we can improve.

Continue reading ‘The Assessment’s Gap’ »

Chris Carver – Our Division. Our Stories.

Christina Carver, She/Her

Office Manager; Residential Life, Housing, and Food Service

About Me

I’m really just a gigantic nerd disguised as a functional adult. I’ve worked in comic book stores on two continents, like playing arcade games, was a semi-professional belly dancer for 21 years, and love spending time with my husband and two children. My family moved to Reno towards the end of 1974 so my father could attend the University of Nevada, Reno, and I’ve lived here almost exclusively since then.

Chris Carver Photo


  • Master of Education, Educational Leadership, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Bachelor of Science, Anthropology, University of Nevada, Reno

Notable Internships & Awards

  • Staff Employees’ Council, Chair, 2016-2017
  • Staff Employees’ Council, Vice Chair, 2015-2016
  • Certificate of Recognition, “Celebrating University of Nevada Women”, Spring 2004
  • Staff Employees’ Council, Secretary, 2003-2004
  • Staff Employees’ Council, Vice Chair, 2002-2003

Who inspires you?

This sounds like the Oscars, but my mom is my greatest inspiration. My mom raised us as a single mother, and even though she thinks she somehow damaged me for life, I think she did a bang up job. She is currently retired, where she struggles to find time for all of her hobbies; weaving, spinning, knitting, ink block art, soap making, and Tai Chi.

What characteristic do you most admire in others?

Patience. Because I need more.

Where’s your favorite place in the world?

Trier, Germany. I could move there tomorrow. It’s a college town about the size of Reno, except they speak German and eat pommes frites!

Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?

Life is a series of failures that lead you to succeed. I’m not afraid of failing because I know I’ll learn something from it.

Tell me about a situation in which you have had to adjust to changes over which you had no control. How did you handle it?

My entire time as a military wife was full of change. I learned quickly that I either had to be part of the solution. I joined the enlisted wives group and helped in any way I could.

If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping me become the person I am today, who would it be and what did they do?

Even though I only speak to her a few times a semester, Paige Hurley is my “Go-To” person on campus. I feel like she knows everything and I really could spend the next ten years learning from her. She is the Queen of Calm.

What would you most regret not having done by the end of your life?

I need to travel more!

What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

Is my Master’s an acceptable answer, because it’s ONLY thing I’m working on right now! It will be cool when I’m done!!! I’m going to have a t-shirt made up with my diploma on it. Yes, I will wear it everywhere.

This interview is part of a series entitled Our Division. Our Stories. that seeks to highlight some of the outstanding members of the Division of Student Services at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, please contact the Student Services Development and Engagement Committee

Jim Fitzsimmons – Our Division. Our Stories.

Jim Fitzsimmons, He/Him

Director, Fitness and Recreational Sports

About Me

I’m just a guy who has allowed his passions to guide his purpose. I have been lucky enough to travel most of the world and it has convinced me relationships and experiences matter more than all of life’s trinkets. I find 99% of what people obsess about on a daily basis really doesn’t matter in the big picture.

Jim Fitzsimmons Photo


  • Doctor of Education, Educational Leadership, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Master of Science, Physical Education, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Bachelor of Science, Physical Education, University of Nevada, Reno

Professional Work Experience

  • First Responder (Paramedic, Police Officer)
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach
  • Elementary School, High School Teacher
  • Community College, University Professor
  • Fitness and Recreational Sports Director

Notable Internships & Awards

  • 6th Place at the 2012 Crossfit Games
  • Selected as Top 40 Collegiate Rec Leader

Who inspires you?

Anyone who refuses to accept conformist wisdom. Anyone who says, “I will” and then does, when everyone says, “you can’t.”

What are you currently watching on Netflix?

I’m not. Life is not a spectator sport.

What’s the last book you read?

I just finished: The Case Against Sugar, The Shell Collector, and The American Sphinx: The Character of Jefferson. It seems like I always have three or four going at the same time.

Tell me about a time you failed. How did you deal with this situation?

Oh man there are SO many! I study the failures more than the successes, there isn’t much to be learned from success, but failure? If you’re paying attention and taking responsibility, there’s a whole lot of learning to be had. I don’t believe we truly fail until we quit or blame someone else, so I don’t ever quit, and I don’t blame.

Discuss a time when your integrity was challenged.

I find we are asked to compromise our integrity on a daily basis. We live in an age of entitlement and it has become common for people to expect you to compromise your integrity to appease their wants at the drop of a hat.

How did you handle it?

I don’t go there. Growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandpa Doug who was a WWI combat veteran who fought from the second year of the war until the armistice. A large man, a kind man, a man whose body was heavily disfigured from his wounds, a man whose words are still with me today. “Your integrity is married to those most sacred things that comprise your character. Once you let go of one, you inevitably let go of the others and then what? You are ruined”.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in the last year?

That everything I learned on the playground in grade school is more important than anything I’ve learned since.

What is one important skill every person should have?


What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now?

My son’s and I are building a zip-link that should result in several trips to the emergency room.

This interview is part of a series entitled Our Division. Our Stories. that seeks to highlight some of the outstanding members of the Division of Student Services at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, please contact the Student Services Development and Engagement Committee

Saundra Mitrovich – Our Division. Our Stories.

Saundra Mitrovich, She/Her

Outreach and Retention Coordinator
The Center: Every Student. Every Story

About Me

Saundra Mitrovich was born in Paradise, California and raised in Oroville, California and is an enrolled member of the Tyme Maidu Tribe of the Berry Creek, Rancheria as well as a descendant of the Yahmonee Maidu Tribe in Quincy, California.

Saundra’s professional interests include strengthening educational pipeline programs for communities, creating and strengthening community partnerships with higher education institutions, developing opportunities for students to participate in research and presentation, developing civic engagement opportunities, and participating in service learning projects. Her educational journey includes undergraduate degree in History and Ethnic Studies and graduate work in Native American Studies.

Saundra Mitrovich Dear World Photo

Professional Work Experience

  • Educational Talent Search Program (Open Doors-TRIO), Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
  • Student Support Services Program (TRIO), Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
  • Tribal Civilian Community Corps, AmeriCorps, Nenana, Alaska
  • AmeriCorps VISTA program, North Pole, Alaska

Notable Internships & Awards

  • Smithsonian’s Artic Studies Center, Anchorage, Alaska
  • McNair Scholar, Cameron University, Lawton, Oklahoma
  • Nominated Change Maker, White House United Summit of Women, Washington, D.C.
  • Nevada Native Youth Services Ambassador/Role Model of the Year


  • Masters of Arts in Native American Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • Bachelor of Arts in History/Ethnic Studies, Cameron University, Lawton/Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

What has been your proudest professional accomplishment?

My proudest professional accomplishment is working in the first position I held in higher education as a coordinator with a Talent Search program in Lawton, Oklahoma at Cameron University. It was my first professional position at a University and working with students and really talking to them about their journey to college.

I feel like that was a very proud moment because it made me realize what I really wanted to do and that I was capable of doing work in higher education.

If you could, who would you trade places with for a day?

Oh goodness, I thought about this question and I think I would most likely swap places with a kindergartner for the day, and the reason I thought about this is because I think about going back to arts and crafts, care-free time, and learning new things; the world just looks amazing through that lens and I would love to reconnect with that energy.

What is the best piece of advice that you have received from a mentor?

I truly believe mentors that you work with, and I’ve had some great mentors over time, they tend to start to see your personality and who you are and one of my mentor’s greatest pieces of advice to me is to find the balance in everything that you’re doing. I think that’s something I truly still try to work on.

“My mentor’s greatest pieces of advice to me is to find the balance in everything that you’re doing”

Tell us about an experience that required you to take a leap of faith.

I would say that one experience I took a huge leap of faith in, is when I met my husband in Alaska. When I met him I was at the end of the year of my AmeriCorps VISTA contract. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Usually when you’re finished you go back home or you move on to another career. I met my husband, Sam, and he got re-stationed to Fort Sill, Oklahoma from North Pole, Alaska and he asked if I would take that journey with him. That was a huge leap of faith. Driving down though Canada across the country to Lawton Fort Sill, Oklahoma from the great Northwest and really trying to see if this would be my partner. He is my partner, my husband now, and we’ve been together 18 years and so it was definitely a huge leap of faith to leave a job, family, friends, and go to a place I’d never been to, but also to start a new journey with my future husband.

Tell us about a time of failure in your life. How did you overcome?

So thinking about times of failure, I think for me it would be when you apply for a position. You put yourself out there, you go through an interview process, and you hope that you’ll get the job. It was the first time I ever applied for a director position and it was for a Boys and Girls Club and it was in my early 20s. I knew that I didn’t necessarily have all the supervisory experience and there were some things that I knew I needed to gain some more exposure to, but I thought, I’m gonna try it out. That was challenging because it was my first failure, not getting a job that I really thought I would maybe like doing. But what I learned from that experience is how to look at job descriptions, challenge myself to gain new experience, and really make myself competitive for jobs in the future.

What is the coolest thing that you are working on right now?

The coolest thing I’m working on right now, which is really exciting for me, is the ‘I-RISE’ program here in the Intertribal Higher-ed Program (IHEP). It’s the Indigenous Research Institute for Student Empowerment program. It’s an opportunity to truly engage our American Indian and Alaska Native students and really strengthen their voice in higher education, but also strengthen their voice within their disciplines. For students that are going into medical school, law, or community health, whatever they may be going into, it’s about really challenging them to think about bringing their perspective from their community, their culture, into the research that’s currently being done and also finding ways to publish that information. It’s really just challenging our students and giving them the opportunity to participate in research, participate in conferences, and strengthening their voice.

“It’s an opportunity to truly engage our American Indian and Alaska Native students and really strengthen their voice in higher education”

If you were to start a company, what values would you found it on?

I would build it on loyalty, trust, and honesty. I also believe a company really should be thinking about the ethics and how they do business. Are you being intentional about putting the best product out there? What are you hoping to do with this product or with this service? Are you improving the life of the person that’s involved? Are you doing something that’s going to add real, true healthy value?

What is your favorite place in the world?

My favorite place in the world, hands down, is my grandmother’s home in Berry Creek, California. The best place about going to Berry Creek and growing up there is that there’s no Wi-Fi. You have to unplug and all you can do is spend time in the great outdoors, read, and just spend time with family. It’s beautiful, it smells wonderful and it’s just a place to go reconnect.

If you could tell one person thank you, who would it be?

If I could tell one person thank you, I believe that it would be my parents. My parents were always my biggest supporter, they were the ones who challenged me to do everything that I have set out to do now: go to school, get an education, travel, participate in sports, continue to push myself, never give up. That’s one thing that they always taught us as children is to never give up. They taught us a work ethic, if you want it then you have to work for it. I truly believe that’s a mentality I have every day, if I want something then I have to go after it. I can’t rely on somebody else to give it to me. I really appreciate the sound and strong work ethic that they have instilled in me and I believe that if I could give them the biggest thank you, it would be for that.

This interview is part of a series entitled Our Division. Our Stories. that seeks to highlight some of the outstanding members of the Division of Student Services at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, please contact the Student Services Personnel Committee

Class of 2016: First Year Employment Outcomes

By Lisa Maletsky & Mary T Calhoon
Office of Student Persistence Research
Nevada Career Studio

Where do University of Nevada, Reno students end up when they graduate? It’s the question on the mind of any college senior who walks into the Career Studio. Increasingly, it also is the question of prospective students and their families, university alumni, state legislators, and employers. Data about graduates’ career outcomes when they first leave UNR is an important demonstration that a degree from UNR offers a great return on investment.

In 2015 the Nevada Career Studio began conducting a survey of all graduating students to find out more about where they land in the first year after graduating from UNR. The survey was constructed and delivered based on national protocols defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE). Three cycles of the survey opened a month before each graduation and remained open for one year after graduation. Students had the ability to respond or update prior responses at any point while the survey was open. Results for the Class of 2016 (including students who graduated in August 2015, December 2015, and May 2016) were published in June of this year.

The survey data was able to account for the career outcomes of 55% (2,022 out of 3,704) of total graduates, after allowing for administrative follow-up to supplement direct survey responses (for example, recording students’ updates to LinkedIn profiles). Therefore, the findings provided an excellent snapshot of immediate post-graduation outcomes. Continue reading ‘Class of 2016: First Year Employment Outcomes’ »

Universal Access: Enhancing the commencement experience for all

By Melisa Choroszy, Associate Vice President, Enrollment Services & Commencement
      Natalie Ehleringer, Program Officer, Office for Prospective Students
      Lexi Erwin, Manager, Prospective Student Events and Programs
      Deserie Tillman, Program Officer, Admissions and Records

Learn more about our Accessibility and Technology commitment and policies.

“Accessible” means that individuals with disabilities are able to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services within the same time frame as individuals without disabilities, with substantially equivalent ease of use. In our presentation at NAACO, we identify many of the implications universal access has for Commencement Ceremonies, including the need for captioning, the availability of programs in large print and in braille and other considerations. We also review accessibility planning features for commencement ceremonies, such as staffing projections, individual assistance, and cost projections. Our pursuit of universal access puts us at the forefront of universities. We are going beyond accommodations and creating truly accessible systems for students.

We invite you to review our presentation and work with us to ensure your systems are accessible.

Download (PDF, 517KB)


Help! Research Based Approaches for Improving Service Utilization and Student Success

By Perry Fittrer, Ph.D.
Assistant Director of the McNair Scholars Program 

As the new academic year begins, Student Services is gearing up to provide students with a wide range of support services. However, many students may never seek help from these carefully crafted services and programs. Why is this? How do we increase service utilization? How do we encourage students to get the help they need, when they need it?

Help-seeking research on college students is vast and varied with much emphasis placed on seeking psychological help (Li, Dorstyn, & Denson, 2014). However, research on help seeking for academic purposes is less prevalent. Academic help seeking can be defined as “an act of effort; that is, the student is actively using available resources in order to increase the probability of success in the future” (Ames & Lau, 1982, p. 414). Karabenick (2003; 2004) frames academic help seeking across five primary constructs, which are instructive in developing an understanding of how students seek help:

  • Informal vs. formal help: Preferences for the source of help being from an informal source such as a friend, or from a formal source such as a service.
  • Instrumental: Help which allows the student to develop skills needed to address the issue themselves later on.
  • Executive: Help that addresses the immediate issue and does not build future skills.
  • Avoidance: Real or perceived barriers that prevent students from seeking help.
  • Threat: Real or perceived socioemotional costs of seeking help for students.

Positive help-seeking behavior can be a predictor of academic outcomes (Ryan & Shin, 2011) and students with lower GPA’s tend to report higher levels of avoidance (Fittrer, 2016). Given that positive help seeking may be important for student success, several strategies can be implemented to increase service utilization by mitigating the systemic and perceptual barriers to help seeking.  Continue reading ‘Help! Research Based Approaches for Improving Service Utilization and Student Success’ »

Multiframe Thinking & Lasting Change

By James Beattie, PhD
Associate Director, ASUN Center for Student Engagement

Higher education stakeholders are increasingly demanding efficiency gains in the form of measurable outcomes from Colleges and Universities.  In fact, Robst (2001) indicated, “Government officials suggest that using performance measures and limiting state appropriations for higher education will control higher education costs and force institutions to provide an education more efficiently.” (p. 730).  The changing landscape of higher education and the United States economy has resulted in decreasing financial support for institutions of higher education at both the federal and state levels, and as such, has compelled higher education administrators to strategically implement policy designed to create measurable efficiencies.  One trend of efficiencies under scrutiny on a national scale are graduation rates; both in terms of percentages and timeframes.  Attewell and Monaghan (2016) stated, “Low completion rates and increased time to degree at U.S. colleges are a widespread concern for policymakers and academic leaders.” (p. 682).

The creation of positive and lasting change in retention and graduation on college campuses is an amorphous challenge that requires an adaptable holistic view encompassing students, administrators, and organizational culture and must be addressed from all four frameworks of Bolman and Deal—Political, Structural, Symbolic, and Human Resource.  If higher education administrators fail to address all four frameworks, they will have a limited view and will miss vital information that could facilitate positive and lasting change for retention and graduation rates.

Take for example the Nevada System of Higher Education initiative to move to a 30 to complete model.  In order to create positive and lasting change administrators need to address all four of the following frameworks. Continue reading ‘Multiframe Thinking & Lasting Change’ »